Amazon S3: Out Like a Light; On Like a Bathtub

You no doubt heard about the Amazon S3 outage that happened earlier this week. It was reported far and wide by media outlets who normally don’t delve into details of the technology supporting our connected world. It is an interesting thing to think that most people have heard about The Cloud but never AWS and certainly not S3.

We didn’t report on the outage, but we ate up the details of the aftermath. It’s an excellent look under the hood. We say kudos to Amazon for adding to the growing trend of companies sharing the gory details surrounding events like this so that we can all understand what caused this and how they plan to avoid it in the future.

Turns out the S3 team was working on a problem with some part of the billing system and to do so, needed to take a few servers down. An incorrect command used when taking those machines down ended up affecting a larger block than expected. So they went out like a light switch — but turning that switch back on wasn’t nearly as easy.

The servers that went down run various commands in the S3 API. With the explosive growth of the Simple Storage Service, this “reboot” hadn’t been tried in several years and took far longer than expected. Compounding this was a backlog of tasks that built up while they were bringing the API servers back online. Working through that backlog took time as well. The process was like waiting for a bathtub to fill up with water. It must have been an agonizing process for those involved, but certainly not as bad as the folks who had to restore GitLab service a few weeks back.

[via /r/programming]

Chicago to Host Hackaday Unconference

We’re excited to announce that Chicago will play host to the Hackaday Unconference on March 18th. We are happy to expand our unconference plans to include this event at Pumping Station One from 1-8pm on 3/18.

Astute readers will notice that this is the second location we have announced this week. On Monday we shared the news that San Francisco would host an unconference. Hackaday’s [Sophi Kravitz] and [Jordan Bunker] are organizing things in SF. [Brian Benchoff], [Bob Baddeley], and [Mike Szczys] will be in Chicago for this event that takes shape based on what you find most interesting.

We’re excited that PS:One is opening their doors for us. We’ll make sure there’s food, beverage, some exciting hardware-based door prizes, and other select swag.

Hackaday Unconference is Based on You

The Hackaday Unconference is all about finding interesting talks from anyone who attends. If you go, and you definitely should, be ready to stand up and deliver eight minutes on something that you find interesting right now. The day will start by going around and asking everyone for a talk title or topic. We’ll all make a collective decision on the schedule for the day and roll with it as talks are bound to spawn extemporaneous discussion and follow up presentations that build on the most exciting of concepts. Unconferences are interactive and not bound by the traditional presenter/audience divide of a conference.

You may speak about anything you like, but it sometimes deciding what to talk about is easier if there are some constraints. Consider the theme of the Hackaday Unconference to be Build Something That Matters. You hear this a lot from us because we think it is important. There is immense talent and incredible experience found in the Hackaday community and we like to take some time in life to direct that for the good of all people. If you have an idea to direct creative energy toward high ideal, it’s likely to make a great presentation.

Soak Up the Excitement to Propel Your Next Project

Pressure is low, excitement is high, and the potential for something spontaneous and awesome to happen is palpable. The ‘here and now’ aspect of an unconference sets it apart from events where speakers, talk subjects, and slide decks are decided upon weeks ahead of time. RSVPs will fill up. Don’t miss out on this chance to jumpstart your excitement for a current project, or to discover the direction of your next adventure.

Friday Hack Chat: Raspberry Pi Principal Hardware Engineer Roger Thornton

rpichat1-01Have you heard about the new Raspberry Pi Zero W which now includes WiFi and Bluetooth? Of course you have. Want to know what went into the addition to the popular design? Now’s the time to ask when this week’s Hack Chat is led by Roger Thornton, chief hardware engineer for Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Pi was born on February 29th, 2012 and has seen a remarkable number of hardware flavors and revisions. Throughout, the hardware has been both dependable and affordable — not an easy thing to accomplish. Roger will discuss the process his team uses to go from concept, all the way through to the hands of the user. It’s an excellent chance to ask any questions you have from soup to nuts.

The Hack Chat is scheduled for Friday, March 3rd at noon PST (20:00 GMT).

Here’s How To Take Part:

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging.

Log into Hackaday.io, visit that page, and look for the ‘Join this Project’ Button. Once you’re part of the project, the button will change to ‘Team Messaging’, which takes you directly to the Hack Chat.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Upcoming Hack Chats

Mark your calendar for Friday March 10th when Hack Chat features mechanical manufacturing with members from the Fictiv team.

I am Science Fiction Incarnate; I am Handle

This is the first official look at Boston Dynamics’ new robot design, called Handle, and it’s a doozy. They are a trusted source of cutting-edge real-world robotics, which is good. If this came from an unknown source we’d be scrambling to debunk it as fake. This robot shows incredible utility, the likes of which has been relegated to the computer graphics of the movie and video game industries.

Impressive ability to keep 'hands' stationary in 3D space
Impressive ability to keep ‘hands’ stationary in 3D space

At the beginning of the month, we saw a demonstration of the robot but it was simply cellphone footage of a conference hall video. This is a crystal clear 60fps video from Boston Dynamics themselves with a few juicy details to go along with it. Chief among them (for us anyway) is that this prototype has a battery range of about 15 miles between charges. The efficiency is due in large part to the wheeled nature of the beast. It balances on two wheels, but the design attaches those wheels to two fully articulated legs rather than directly to the frame of the body.

The result is a quadruped that is distinctly not human in appearance but can perform well in similar environments and with similar tasks. Handle is capable of offsetting its body weight, allowing the front limbs to pick up heavy objects while maintaining balance. The combination of both electric and hydraulic actuators let it perform feats like jumping over four-foot high objects. The independence of each wheel is shown off with ramps to simulate uneven terrain.

Bravo BD. We can’t wait to see Handle wheeling down the street placing smile-adorned boxes on each stoop as it revolutionizes home delivery. Oh, and kudos on the 80’s-style freeze frame at the end of the video below.

Continue reading “I am Science Fiction Incarnate; I am Handle”

Audi Engineer Exposes Cheat Order

In an interesting turn of events last week in a German court, evidence has materialized that engineers were ordered to cheat emissions testing when developing automotive parts.

Last Tuesday, Ulrich Weiß brought forward a document that alleges Audi Board of Director members were involved in ordering a cheat for diesel emissions. Weiß was the head of engine development for Audi, suspended in November of 2015 but continued to draw more than half a million dollars in salary before being fired after prior to last week’s court testimony.

Volkswagen Group is the parent company of Audi and this all seems to have happened while the VW diesel emissions testing scandal we’ve covered since 2015 was beginning to come to light. Weiß testified that he was asked to design a method of getting around strict emissions standards in Hong Kong even though Audi knew their diesel engines weren’t capable of doing so legitimately.

According to Weiß, he asked for a signed order. When he received that order he instructed his team to resist following it. We have not seen a copy of the letter, but the German tabloid newspaper Bild reports that the letter claims approval by four Audi board members and was signed by the head of powertrain development at the company.

Hackaday was unable to locate any other sources reporting on the letter other than the Bild article we have linked to (also the source used in the Forbes article above). Sources such as Die Welt reference only “internal papers”. If you know of other reporting on the topic please leave a comment about it below.

 

San Francisco Tapped for Hackaday Unconference on March 18th

We want you to make the next Hackaday live event great. This is an Unconference in San Francisco on Saturday, March 18th and it depends completely on you. Get signed up now!

You’re in Control of the Hackaday Unconference

An unconference is a live event where you decide the topic, guide the discussion, and generally make it an epic Saturday. We have a handful of speakers lined up to help get things started. But we also want you to be ready to give a talk. Everyone that shows up should be prepared to stand up and deliver eight minutes on something they find exciting right now.

Kicking off the night we’ll ask each person to tell us the title or topic of their talk and approximate length of the presentation. Once all the titles are written down we’ll hammer out the schedule right then and there. If you haven’t been to an unconference this is the time to sign up, collect your thoughts, and jump into an afternoon of extemporaneous idea-sharing. If you have been to an unconference we’re guessing you signed up as soon as you saw this announcement.

Continue reading “San Francisco Tapped for Hackaday Unconference on March 18th”

The AI is Always Watching

My phone can now understand me but it’s still an idiot when it comes to understanding what I want. We have both the hardware capacity and the software capacity to solve this right now. What we lack is the social capacity.

We are currently in a dumb state of personal automation. I have Google Now enabled on my phone. Every single month Google Now reminds me of bills coming due that I have already paid. It doesn’t see me pay them, it just sees the email I received and the due date. A creature of habit, I pay my bills on the last day of the month even though that may be weeks early. This is the easiest thing in the world for a computer to learn. But it’s an open loop system and so no learning can happen.

Earlier this month [Cameron Coward] wrote an outstanding pair or articles on AI research that helped shed some light on this problem. The correct term for this level of personal automation is “weak AI”. What I want is Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) on a personal level. But that’s not going to happen, and I am the problem. Here’s why.

Continue reading “The AI is Always Watching”